Category Archives: The Sudan and African American Oral Storytelling Project

All Good Stories Must Come To An End!

Kuumba Storytellers & USASSCA - September 2014
Kuumba Storytellers & USASSCA – September 2014

WHERE DID THE TIME GO? It seems like yesterday when Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia and the Sudanese Families partnered together on October 26, 2013. We had a Meet and Greet session as Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia received the NSN Brimstone Grant and the rest was HISTORY. On November 13, 2013 we broke bread together forming friendships and stories.  Today was a special day 9-20-14 almost a year later as we are approaching the end of our project. We heard the same stories from our Sudanese Friends, but his time their stories showed all of the qualities of a Great Story.

The tips that were suggested from the Workshops of the Kuumba Storytellers were used to enhance their stories. It has really been a wonderful experience from the Beginning to the Ending as Kuumba Storytellers, Laverne Amponsah and I attended every meeting, workshop, and festival. We embraced our new families connecting together as “ONE”. I can truly say that our mission for Connecting Communities Together through Storytelling has been SUCCESSFUL.

All of the Sudanese Storytellers were “AWESOME”.  Kuumba Storytellers who served on this project were Deborah Strahorn, the Project Manager; Workshop Facilitators were Ernestine Brown, Esther Culver, Laverne Amponsah, Janice Butt, Chetter Galloway and Gwendolyn J. Napier. Thanks to Roberta Malavenda, and to all of our Sudanese Friends of the Clarkston Community.

Gwendolyn Napier – Vice President of Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia

Brimestone Update

USASSCA members telling stories
USASSCA members telling stories








We are almost done!  All the stories for The Sudan and African American Oral Storytelling Project have been collected.  The stories are currently in the process of being translated.   Over the past year Kuumba, the United Sudan and South Sudan Communities Association (USASSCA) & CDF of Clarkston, GA has worked diligently on this venture.   From the initial gathering of the three entities in October 2013, to the recent “Tell Me a Story” Festival in May, we have made huge strides in meeting our goals.

The next steps include:

  • Reviewing the collected stories
  • Editing the stories into performance format
  • Coaching the Sudanese tellers
  • Kuumba Storytellers selecting stories to include in their own storytelling programs
  • A final concert presentation of the selected stories with USASSCA

Thanks to everyone for all of your hard work and continued support!

Deborah Strahorn – Brimestone Grant Coordinator

Tell Me a Story Festival

The Clarkston Cultural Literacy & Language Festival on Saturday, May 17, 2014 was an educational and informative success for the community.  The festival is a project of the Clarkston Early Learning Network (CELN). Its purpose is to showcase Clarkston and partner storytellers who share stories in English, and other languages. Literacy and language activities promote the importance of families singing, talking, and reading to their children in their native language.

 The theme for the 2nd annual festival was “Tell Me a Story”. Stories were told in English, Spanish, Somali, Nepali, Arabic, Dinka and Sign Language. The Festival started at 2:00 and ended well after 5:00 pm.  It is safe to say about 200 people attended of which 75 were children.  The families were treated to a wonderful afternoon of educational and entertaining activities.

 The festival featured Storytellers from the Brimstone applied Oral Storytelling  Initiative with Emmanual Gai Solomon as the MC. It also featured Gwen Napier (English), LaVerne Amponsah (English), Mohamud Barakut (English & Arabic), Ibrahim Barakut (English & Arabic), Abraham Deng Ater (English & Arabic) Fatima (English & Arabic), Abuk Wach (English), Nyanwal Ayon (English & Dinka), and Emmanuel Gai Solomon (English).  All of the above performed and told wonderful stories.

 LaVerne Amponsah and Gwendolyn Napier served as emcees for the first half of the program.  The festival successfully met the needs of everyone present.  Emmanuel Solomon of USASSCA also served as the emcee introducing the Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia.  The Kuumba Storytellers embraced the Clarkston Community with several African Stories including props, drumming and singing.  Also provided was a Kuumba display table of different African Artifacts to share with the audience.

 The Sudanese families performed and the stories were GREAT!  The stories were well received by the audience of adults and children. Emanuel performed his story “Who will put the bell around the cat’s neck?  By involving the children in his story he really brought the tale to life left smiles on everyone’s faces.   It was refreshing to see the strategies from the Kuumba storytelling workshops utilized and remembered.

 There was excitement in the teller’s voices and so many other signs of sure confidence.  This was another wonderful event for the Brimstone Project for connecting communities together with literacy and language.

 Gwendolyn Napier – Kuumba Vice President 2014 – 2016

Storytelling 102: Children’s Oral Storytelling Workshop

Workshop Presenter - Laverne Amponsah
Workshop Presenter – Laverne Amponsah

It was another wonderful day in the Clarkston Community for the Children’s Oral Storytelling Workshop. This was part of the BRIMSTONE PROJECT. We had a group that consisted of families with their children and adults. Kuumba Storytellers presented Storytelling Workshop 102 with Ernestine Brown, Laverne Amponsah, and Deborah Strahorn. Kuumba Storytellers, Janice Butt and Gwendolyn J. Napier served as Workshop Facilitators. Ernestine reflected back to Workshop 101 “The ABC’S of Storytelling” which was first presented to the group with Esther Culver, Janice Butt and Gwendolyn J. Napier on the importance of story selections and contents.  Janice reminded them to have a JUICY FACE when telling stories to reach the audience and that it was also helpful to use props and music to keep it simple – ‘KIS’. She concluded with a wonderful story that captivated the children.

Laverne informed the audience that there were different storytelling learning styles, including auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. The children were able to identify each. Several props were introduced to the children that consisted of original African instruments and dolls. Laverne also shared a story with the children about being different and that it is ok to love yourself for just being you. Deborah Strahorn introduced the components of story connections: the story, the audience, and the storyteller. She demonstrated call and response to the group and showed ways to use storytelling props when telling stories to young children. Her presentation was great and the stories she shared were fantastic.

Our Sudanese friends shared their stories and demonstrated what they had learned from both workshops. We heard stories that were told in Dinka & translated back into English. These were all Dinka children’s stories preserved so that they will be passed down from generation to generation. Handmade instruments were used during story time as an introduction into their stories.

You will have an opportunity to read the children’s stories when the book is published. You will also hear them told in the community by Kuumba Storytellers. This was a wonderful program which included delicious Sudanese food prepared by the wife of USASSCA member Ibrahim. We went back for seconds, thirds and even had an opportunity to take a plate home. Our plates were full of food, workshops, great stories, & new friends. If you missed this program make sure that you do not miss the next one coming soon.

Gwendolyn Napier – Kuumba Storytellers of GA Vice President

Brimstone Spring Workshop & Festival

Deborah Strahorn of Kuumba at Dec. 2013 Workshop
Deborah Strahorn of Kuumba at Dec. 2013 Workshop


Kuumba & USASSCA have been busy on the Brimestone project. Two big events are in the works and upcoming for the spring. One event is another storytelling workshop by Kuumba Storytellers on April 19th, 2014. The location is TBD.

The other event is the May 17 Tell Me a Story Festival at the Clarkston Community Center – Clarkston, GA. Stories collected as part of the Brimestone project will be presented at this festival. Stay tuned for more details on both events as we progress through the project.  – Chetter Galloway


Children’s Stories from Sudan: A Family Event

Sudanese participants at the family story sharing event.
Sudanese participants at the family story sharing event.

Rubbing his belly to make a point, Ibrahim, a Clarkston middle school student, retold a story his grandmother told him. He told the story with great ease and some humor, all in Arabic, to a receptive audience of parents, youth, and storytellers. The storytelling event, held at the Clarkston First Baptist Church, January 18, 2014, was sponsored by the Darfur Communities Network, in partnership with Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia, United Sudan and South Sudan Communities Association (USASSCA), and CDF-A Collective Action Initiative. Translation was provided by Basmet Ahmed organizer of the event, and Emmanuel Solomon, president, USASSCA.

One of the fathers shared a story that he was told as a child. As he acted out the story, complete with cries of “help” in Arabic, the audience recognized it as a story similar to “The Boy who Called Wolf.” This story was called “Lies and Consequences” and in this version, the wolf is replaced by a tiger.

Emmanuel shared a story in English (a story he has also written in Dinka) about a cat and a bell, a story with no ending. The story resulted in a discussion about leadership and strategy. One of the mothers told two stories, one about a cat and mice and the tricks the cat played on the mice. The second was an “ode” to Sudan. She has many more stories to share, and another meeting is planned to hear and record her stories.

Gwen Napier, a member of Kuumba and a storyteller, brought drums that she had made out of wood and showed the youth how to use tape over the wood to make a drum like sound. Gwen likes to use “props” when she tells stories and encouraged the storytellers to creatively use drums, puppets, costumes, and other props to enhance their stories.

The Sudanese children stories collected through the Brimstone Story Telling Project will be written in Arabic, Dinka, and English. This spring and summer, the stories will be shared with the Clarkston community by the Sudanese storytellers.

The goal of the Brimstone award to the Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia is to collect, write, and disseminate oral children’s stories from Sudan.

For more information: Roberta Malavenda,

Storytelling 101: Listening With a Juicy Face

Storytelling 101: Listening With a Juicy Face

“Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”

“All the better to see with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big teeth you have!”

“All the better to eat you up with, my child.”

Basmat (l) and Hiram (r) doing a tandem telling of Mr. Hyena aka Little Red Riding Hood
Basmat (l) and Hiram (r) doing a tandem telling of Mr. Hyena aka Little Red Riding Hood

Sound familiar? Of course it does. It is the story we all know as “Little Red Riding Hood” or in Sudan what is known as “Mr. Hyena”. As members of USASSCA & Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia all listened with eagerness and anticipation,  also known as a listening with a “juicy face”, this classic tale unfolded right before our eyes. Attendees of the Storytelling 101 Workshop did not know that we were in for a treat; a tandem telling by Hiram & Basmat of USASSCA. As Hiram told in Fur, one of the many languages spoken by the Sudanese, Basmat translated to English.

And as with stories that travel, there were many similarities and differences. Similarities included a young child taking a treat (eggs) to go see the sick grandmother and encountering a dangerous animal (hyena) alongside the road. The hyena later kills, and then poses as the grandmother. However, the story’s ending is somewhat different. In the Sudanese version, when the hyena is asked why his mouth is so big he replies, “So that I can eat the eggs and you because your granny was not tasty”. At this point of the story, the girl’s father comes into the grandmother’s house with a knife and threatens to kill the hyena. The hyena gets scared and jumps out of the window.

USASSCA member Abrahim also shared one of the children’s stories he had collected. He read it in Dinka, another language spoken by the Sudanese. It is a story about two friends who go to a distant land to face wolves and get cattle. The two have a disagreement and must face a wise judge who settles their dispute.

Kuumba Storyteller Esther Culver tells a story at workshop
Kuumba Storyteller Esther Culver tells a story at workshop

And speaking of disputes, certainly frogs and snakes are no strangers to the word. At least that is what one would gather from the story Esther Culver used to illustrate her presentation on story modeling. The participants praised her for successfully bringing the characters to life. Through her voice changes, hand motions, and body movements, Esther captured the essence of each character while captivating the listeners. When asked to comment on the workshop, she stated “There was a positive infection of stories and storytelling. The participants got an idea of what storytelling is and they are enthusiastic about it. There was a certain togetherness that unified the participants which made it an eye opening workshop.”

Gwendolyn Napier & Abrahim perform at Storytelling 101 Workshop
Gwendolyn Napier & Abrahim perform at Storytelling 101 Workshop

One of those eye opening moments was workshop facilitator’s Gwendolyn Napier’s segment “Putting the POP in Your Story”. Stories must have three essential ingredients: beginning, middle, and end. However, to make it POP other layers can be added. Using a food analogy, Gwendolyn explained that just as we layer a sandwich with vegetables, cheese, mayo, mustard, etc. The same can be done with stories. Layers of a story may include but are not limited to: rhythm, rhyme, music, call & response, props, or songs. To illustrate this layering, Gwendolyn Napier played the Djembe drum as Abrahim sung a Sudanese story song, ‘Those who sing praise in the name of the Lord’.

In the last segment of the workshop, “Making Stories Come to Life”, personal stories were featured, specifically stories about the day you were born. Our facilitator Janice Butt had participants share their stories which garnered some interesting tales. For example, Emmanuel told us he was born in a very small village in Sudan but did not know the date or time. However, when he came to this country he was given the bicentennial year of 1976 as his date of birth. So for him every day is his birthday.

Deborah Strahorn also had an interesting story about the day her daughter Ivy was born. She recalled being sick many times and asked for an epidermal to help. And sure enough, it worked! Or as Deborah put it, “I came in with a fat tummy and came out with fat arms.” And most import to note from this workshop segment is that we should always get permission before sharing someone’s personal story.

Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia & USASSCA @ Storytelling Workshop Dec. 7, 2013
Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia & USASSCA @ Storytelling Workshop Dec. 7, 2013

In summary, the workshop provided a solid foundation to assist with telling, gathering, personalizing, and adding a bit of flavor to your stories. It also included a wonderful Kwanzaa presentation by Laverne Amponsah where guests were given gifts (zowadi) as tokens of their appreciation and participation.

Chetter Galloway – Kuumba Treasurer (2012 – 2013)

Breaking Bread: Communities Connecting With One Another

Brimstone Gathering October 26, 2013 with USASSCA and Kuumba Storytellers of GA
Brimstone Gathering October 26, 2013 with USASSCA and Kuumba Storytellers of GA

Breaking Bread:  Communities Connecting With One Another

Imagine a place where the food is plentiful & where your favorite fruits are never out of season? Imagine fruits like bananas, mangos, lemons, oranges, and pomegranates always in abundance. What if I told you this place is not here in the United States, but in another country? One where there are people of different ethnic groups who experience this daily. It is a place where stories are told and women are a force in the community. The place is Marrah Mountain located in the Darfur region of Sudan. And recently, Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia was given a taste of this experience in an informal gathering of food, fun, and conversation with our grant partners for the Sudan & African American Oral History Project.

Our meet and greet took place on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 in Clarkston, GA at the headquarters of the CDF. It began with everyone receiving a nametag, introducing ourselves and having a seat around the conference table. Next we had a buffet style sampling of an authentic Sudanese meal prepared for us by our partners. The dishes included: lamb, fish, okra, a yogurt based salad and a spicy vegetable wrap stuffed with rice, beans, and meat. To say the food was anything short of delicious is an understatement. And as we sat and ate, the food became our common ground for conversation.

According to Gwendolyn Napier, “We had a wonderful fellowship, and had an opportunity to eat a wonderful Sudanese meal. The foods were delicious.”

Laverne Amponsah commented, “It was truly a treat to taste the food and share stories. For example, the okra dish from Sudan was very similar to the okra dishes I grew up eating in Savannah, Georgia.”

Janice Butt stated, “The food helped us relate to each other. It gave us something to talk about. We learned that sorghum is an important staple, rather than wheat or rice. I loved the description of the beauty and plenty of Nuba Mountain where every type of food grew.”

Once everyone had their fill of food and drink, Emmanuel Solomon, who served as facilitator broke us into four groups so that we could get better acquainted with one another. In our breakout groups, we were instructed to find five similarities and one unique trait about each other. My group consisted of Gwendolyn Napier, Ezzeldin, Luca, and Rothman. Describing ourselves as cheerful and talkative, we also shared the same interests in science fiction movies and in comedians such as Bill Cosby, Cedric the Entertainer, and Martin Lawrence. Another common interest among us was rap music. And to show off our uniqueness, we collaborated to compose the following rap about our names:

We are group number one, we like to have fun, so listen up now as we drop our names son!

My name is Chetter & I am sharp like the cheese, when I kiss the girls, I make them all sneeze!

My name is Gwen, I like to win, clap three times and I will say it again!

Ring-a-ding ding they call me Ezzeldin, even Samsung and IPhone have customized my ring!

My name is Luca, now don’t be a hater, I’m like the disciple and will elevate your greater!

They call me Rothman, the businessman; I make good money because I have a plan!

So, as you can see our group “wrapped up” our assignment with a bit of comedy and creativity while inspiring some new rap enthusiasts!

After all the breakout groups had shared their experiences, we were given a brief history about the traditions and culture of the three regions of the Sudan. We were fortunate to have Rothman from the Nuba Mountains, Luca from South Sudan, and Basmat from Darfur who gave detailed accounts of their respective regions. Rothman and Luca shared their stories of courtship, dowry’s, and arranged marriages while Basmat engaged us with the beauty of Darfur and the role of women in her community. And, from our facilitator Emmanuel Solomon we were reminded of the importance of storytelling. Since a formal education is not available storytelling is a way to have education passed down from one generation to the next.

That being said, this afternoon of food and conversation is one which can be woven into a tale or two and retold by any who were fortunate enough to be part of it. We discovered that despite being separated by thousands of miles of land and water, that our interests in music, the arts, food, and travel were strikingly similar if not the same. Perhaps the afternoon is best summed up by Kuumba Vice President Ernestine Brown, “It wasn’t intended to be, but for me, it was a meeting of the souls. It was a cultural, spiritual experience.”

Chetter Galloway – Kuumba Treasurer (2012 – 2013)

Kuumba’s Fire & Brimstone!

Kuumba’s Fire & Brimstone!

Welcome to the Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia blog! 2013 has been an exciting year for the Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia. Just like the legendary phoenix that rose from the ashes, Kuumba’s flame continues to rise as we approach the New Year. We have increased our presence on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, participated in live streaming events, and continued our partnership with the National Black Arts Festival for the fourth consecutive year. As a matter of fact, Kuumba’s own Mama Koku is the official teller of the National Black Arts Festival!

And now, we are excited to announce that Kuumba Storytellers of Georgia has been awarded the 2013 Brimstone Grant from the National Storytelling Network. The Brimstone grant supports a model storytelling project that is service-oriented, based in a community or organization, and to some extent replicable in other places and situations.

(l-r) Roberta Malavenda of CDF, Emmanuel Solomon of USASSCA, Deborah Strahorn of KUUMBA
(l-r) Roberta Malavenda of CDF, Emmanuel Solomon of USASSCA, Deborah Strahorn of KUUMBA

Kuumba’s grant is for an applied storytelling collaboration called The Sudan and African American Oral Storytelling Project. Kuumba will be partnering with two organizations for this venture. The first is the United Sudan & South Sudan Communities Association (USASSCA), an organization founded by refugee Sudanese leaders in 2012 to bring together various Sudanese ethic groups. And the second is the CDF: A Collective Action Initiative based in Clarkston, GA who assists with community engagement, facilitation, and program planning.

Kuumba Storytellers and its partners will go into the community to collect, preserve and compile Sudanese children’s stories. Additionally, Kuumba will teach storytelling techniques to the Sudanese partners and collectors so that they can retell the stories within their community. Kuumba will also have the opportunity to present and perform the collected stories at local venues and throughout Georgia. Furthermore, the project will serve as a model for other entities who want to use storytelling to bridge cultures and connect with communities.

So, in closing, Kuumba is eager with anticipation to work with our partners on this groundbreaking project as we continue telling it well in the A-T-L!

Chetter Galloway – Kuumba Treasurer 2012 – 2013